School of Engineering (Okanagan campus)
What is your educational and professional background?
Upon receiving my PhD, I achieved tenure in academia quite early in my career, but after several years switched to metallurgical industry, where I spent almost 20 years as a research engineer — leading a number of multi-million dollar projects in many countries. After spending so much time in industry-driven research, it feels good now to come back to academia full-time with an industrial knowledge base — the “luggage” that I am happy to share with my students.
Engineering has been in my family for several generations, from designing ships for the Imperial Russian Navy, to developing aerospace materials and technologies. Obviously, this had an influence on its own, but besides that, from early on I have always envisioned myself as an engineer. My father — a scientist who made significant contributions to development of novel metal forming technologies for aerospace structures —was my go-to person for advice for years, and naturally, became my first mentor in the field. I was extremely lucky this way. Interestingly, the tradition continues, and my son now is a very successful engineer in his own right.
For about 15 years I was an Adjunct Professor with several Canadian universities, so I know the “landscape” quite well. I like the natural mix of the established and highly reputable engineering education of UBC and the dynamics of the relatively young School of Engineering at UBC-Okanagan — the way it is positioning itself as an emerging leader within Canadian academia. It feels great to be a part of this family.
What are your research interests and current projects?
Seeing the end result of my efforts in a practical application is my biggest inspiration. For example, I spent a number of year in Taiwan working for the China Steel Corporation, developing manufacturing technologies for new steel alloys for construction and shipbuilding industries. One of these steels — very advanced (and difficult to produce) — was selected for the main structure of Taipei101 (the tallest building in the world ever build in a highly seismically active area). I’ve received a number of awards in my career, but selection of this steel for that project was by far my greatest recognition. Most recently, I have been working on lightweight alloys for aerospace and automotive powertrain applications. These alloys can withstand conditions of higher cycling load and higher temperature, which helps my collaborators in industry to implement more efficient fuel combustion cycles and develop next-generation engines. Again, this target is a great motivator. I have been fortunate to build a research team of highly intelligent and enthusiastic students working alongside with me on several projects in this domain.
How do you hope your work will impact society/students?
My biggest ambition is seeing my students succeed in their education and careers. I have a very good track record in this, having my former students working on the cutting edge of industrial innovations and holding faculty positions in the best universities in Canada and internationally. It is likely not just the knowledge that I shared, but mostly the attitude, result-orientation and the teamwork that I keep promoting in my group, that defines their success.
How do you think the field of engineering will be different 100 years from now?
100 years? I see revolutionary changes happening in engineering knowledge every 10-15 years. For example, just a few years ago the fuel mileage of 30 mpg was considered very good, but in seven years, the industry will have to deliver corporate average fuel efficiency of 54.6 mpg. How many of the existing engine technologies are going to fit into this picture? Already, we have highly efficient downsized 3-cylinder engines with a displacement of below one liter that can deliver 120 HP power. Isn’t that revolutionary? Having said that, I do not feel that the “field of engineering” is changing much or will be much different. At the end of the day, it has always been about the challenge and pushing the boundaries, right? I am sure that 100 years ago my grandfather had been working in the same professional “climate,” may be using different tools but, arguably, the same fundamentals.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in engineering, and why?
First of all, it is not going to be an easy life; this I can guarantee. The engineering work stress and challenge is not something you will be able to “switch off” when you leave your office at 5pm (if you ever manage to leave your office that early). Many weeks of stress and hard work on a project usually yield a half-day happiness when a break-through is achieved, then the cycle repeats. If you are ready for that, then welcome to the field, you deserve your iron ring.
Any advice? If you feel it in you, go for it, build your own “Taipei101.” At the end of the day it is extremely satisfying to see the difference that you have created.
What item could you not live without?
Outside of work (in terms of material things) I can live without almost anything — within reason. I value my family (which now includes my grandson) and the support I receive from it above anything.
What are you passionate about outside work?
My boats, project cars, reading and skiing of all kinds — water slalom and cross-country are the best!